Giving users the Virtual Desktop They Want

How CIOs are matching user needs with mobile devices for business value

Scenario: The user experience will make or break desktop virtualization

Carol Fineagan, CIO, EnergySolutions

EnergySolutions is based in the United States, but we have offices around the world. Virtualizing our infrastructure with VMware and NetApp gave us a management and savings boost at the back end, but there are still latency problems, depending on the user’s location, and significant differences in the application features and experience available on each client or device. If we in IT want to create business value, we have to provide applications that offer a common experience in today’s mobile environments, no matter where users are or what devices they have in their hands or on their desks.

We chose VMware View for desktop virtualization to leverage our existing partnerships, and we established as diverse a testing group as we could. We’ve found, however, that while the technology can be complex, the expectations and sophistication of our users are a much bigger barrier. This is particularly true for tablets, and we have decided not to incorporate them until 2012. As a potential solution, both now and for the long term, we are looking at setting up an internal store with approved devices that will provide standardized interfaces. How have others addressed the issue of presenting virtualized applications on different devices and managing user expectations?

Advice: Focus on applications, not devices

Tina Rourk, CIO, Wyndham Vacation Ownership

Since our user base has a mix of requirements that range from shared desktops to dedicated devices, we chose Citrix for our virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). Our launch plans included focusing first on our owners and guests, and the associates who serve and interact with them, since they often use the same systems. We are also exploring how we support the high usage of individual mobile devices throughout our resorts and corporate locations.

To address user expectations and ensure common experiences across applications, we’re also focusing on providing that standard look and feel. Controlling the devices can only get you so far in today’s world, so we are considering implementing a policy that if the company provides the device, we will support it fully; if the user supplies the device, we will only support the corporate applications that are installed on the device. To provide better security controls on those mobile devices, we’re using a tool called MobileIron.

As device options expand, tablets, of course, are a big factor to consider. They have presented challenges in our environment for a variety of reasons, including that few IT consultants have experience providing desktop virtualization on tablets. So we too are still researching how best to employ VDI on tablets based on the technology and management options for all our users.

Advice: Quantify the benefits of control

Rick Greenwood, CIO, Wells Fargo’s Rural Community Insurance Agency

We found that while some things are common across clients and devices, like credentials and authorization, there’s a tendency for the virtualized applications to behave a little bit differently on each. This does cause complications and confusion for users who want everything to appear as they are used to. So we have chosen to go with an approved list, much like the store idea. Everyone who is on our VMware infrastructure is on one of those approved and managed clients.

Almost 83 percent of our user base is virtualized now. That’s quite a number of people, which of course means that there are some who are not satisfied with the approved devices and systems. To counter this, it is important to know your environment, and be able to quantify the soft impact and hard cost of having a nonstandard device in that mix. But it is just as important to have all the executives—top level and directors—on the same page. We brought together representatives from each of our five business areas and went through all the ways they could see their staff using the devices. And we had all the information and examples gathered before those meetings to be able to show how VMware and the devices we chose could meet those needs, and to demonstrate the cost and productivity benefits we had identified. Now that they understand how IT is helping and why this environment is the most useful for the company, we have no problem countering requests for non-approved devices.

Fineagan, Rourk and Greenwood are all members of the CIO Executive Council, a global peer advisory service and professional association of more than 500 CIOs, founded by CIO's publisher. To learn more, visit


This story, "Giving users the Virtual Desktop They Want" was originally published by CIO Executive Council.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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